Friday, 3 December 2010


I've been thinking about why Reverb10 jumped out at me and spoke to me.  The past 12 months have been horrible.  Hands down, it has been the worse year of my life.  It's not just that I lost my Dad and my aunt although quite honestly that would make this year bad enough.  There's been a lot more.  By reflecting and using the daily prompts of Reverb10, I'm hoping to get something more from these past months than just an overall "2010 was a bad year".  I want to be able to write about why it was bad.  I want to be able to find some moments of joy.  Happiness.  I want to look back and learn from the whole "bad year" experience.

And so for the next couple of weeks I'm hoping to do just that.

Reverb10 | Day 3 Prompt: Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

A few weeks after my Dad passed away, we celebrated my eldest son's birthday.  It was his 26th birthday.  I knew it was going to be hard.  Everyone there, mainly, and so Dad not being there would be so obvious.  As a family we were still very much in shock.  It all felt so surreal.  Although Dad had been ill for a while and we knew his cancer was terminal, you wouldn't know it to look at him.  He wasn't in hospital.  Up until the last week before his death, he was still working.  Yes, he was weak.  Yes, he was on lots of drugs.  And 4 days before he died the cancer spread to his brain.

Dad with my sister, her daughter and my hubby, Steve.  This was about 6 weeks before Dad died

He didn't die a "normal" cancer death.  I guess we were spared that.  So the hospice specialist nurses told us.  We were lucky.  Dad was lucky.  He decided to stop taking morphine as he wanted to be lucid and didn't like the hallucinations.  They gave him steroids which gave us a miracle 2 days with him.  The symptoms of the cancer going to his brain - loss of us of his right side, couldn't walk, etc.. - just disappeared.  Dad was "back" with us.  2 precious days.  It was March and very cold out still.  He wanted to sit in the garden and have a cigar and he did.  All his grandchildren and us 3 kids were with him those last 2 days.  And his sister.  My aunty Janet.  She was staying with us.

And then without warning that evening while sitting in his favourite chair, he died.  My brother was in the kitchen doing dinner.  I'd been sat with Dad in the living room.  We were watching the news and laughing at Mum as she breezed through the living room telling me off making sure that I was letting Dad watch whatever he wanted to watch.  We laughed because my Mum always seemed to have the "control" over the TV.  Dad had to watch what she wanted.  We smiled at each other.  Dad never minded.  He was so easy going, happy go lucky and he absolutely adored and loved my Mum.  Whatever made her happy made him happy.

My brother asked me if I would get Dad's medication ready for the night.  Me, my brother and my sister had been staying at Mum & Dad's for the past several weeks "dawn to dusk" to help look after Dad but also Mum.  She has her own health problems and the reality of Dad dying was too much for her.  She lived in a little pretend world that all was ok.  I think all the while us kids were there dealing with the reality, she felt somehow protected from the truth.

I was waiting for Steve to pick me up that evening and while waiting was just sat with Dad in the living room.   I got up and passed my brother in the doorway and only managed a foot in the kitchen before he yelled at me.  I turned and immediately knew that Dad had died.  I saw it in a split second.  His eyes were dead.  He was gone. I knew it.   In the split second I was standing in front of my Dad.  I touched his face and told him it was ok.  That Peter and I were there.  It was ok.

And then suddenly something else took over and we called the paramedics and my brother and I got Dad on the floor to try and resuscitate him.  It was all happening so fast.  Mum was suddenly there and screaming at Dad not to leave her.  I was grateful Dad was already dead at that point because I know if he were in that half state of dying, he would've heard my mum and been so distressed.  Mum was desperate and then just as quickly it was like she realised it was too late.  Dad was gone.  Her beloved husband, best friend, life companion for the past 48yrs was gone.  She seemed resolute.
I walked away.  I remembered that Dad had signed some forms a few days before that he didn't want to be "resuscitated".  I couldn't cope with it.  The paramedics arrived and then the police and so the evening went on.  They "called" Dad's death almost immediately.

And so it was.  Dad died suddenly.  Unexpectedly.  We were in shock.  For a long time.  He was only 68yrs old.  He was still working.  He ran his own software business.  He was vital and alive.  He shouldn't have died then.  He was brave and courageous.  He never once got angry.  He never once questioned his prognosis.  My Mum asked him one afternoon why he wasn't angry or frustrated that he had cancer and was dying.  He told her that when he was sat having chemotherapy, he would look around the room and see young people.  Teenagers.  Young adults in their twenties.  Young mums.  He'd had a good life.  He had 68yrs.  He had a life.  A good life.  How can he be angry when he looked around and saw these much younger people, just starting their lives, being robbed so young?

Fast forward a few weeks to my son's 26th birthday.  My son is the eldest of my four kids.  He's the eldest grandchild.  He and my Dad were very close.  He looks like my Dad.  We celebrated his 26th birthday at a local country pub in their garden.  A place familiar to us.  Happy memories.  It was the middle of April.  Spring.  The sun was shining.  White, soft fluffy clouds gently dotted a beautiful blue sky.  My granddaughter and my niece ran around.  Playing.  Squealing with delight.  Blissfully unaware of the sadness and shock of the past few weeks.  Just happy to be together.  Just happy to be playing.
A lot of this past year has been surreal to me.  Stressful.  Sad.  So very sad.  Lots of very strange moments.  But on that day, celebrating Daniel's birthday, I looked around and realised we were smiling.   We were chatting.  We all looked relaxed and happy.  The grass seemed suddenly greener.  The sun shine was brighter.    As I looked over at everyone I realised the true legacy that Dad had left.  It was real moment of truly feeling alive.  Alive and happy.  Alive in the realisation that although Dad was gone, he'd left so much for us.  So much he'd taught us.  Family.  A real family.  Good moments.  Bad moments.  So much love.  Real love.  That mattered most.  I stood there and looked at everyone.  His presence was there.  He was there.  I saw it in my son's face.  I saw it the way my other son moved.  I saw it in my mother's eyes.  And in the youngsters running around playing.
That was a small moment in the past year I felt most alive.  And I knew as I stood there that Dad would be so happy to see us celebrating.  Enjoying our family time together.  Laughing.  Eating.  Drinking.  I couldn't bare the thought of us not celebrating.  Of wallowing in our sadness and grief.  And missing out on real moments of being alive and of experiencing joy.  Dad would've been sad.  And that's how I try to cope when I feel grief overwhelming me.  I imagine Dad watching and willing me to enjoy my life.  To live.  To make the most of every moment.


Sarah said...

Such a beautiful post Di. Your Dad sounds like such a lovely man, and lucky like you to have a big loving family around him while he was here.

honey said...

Di, Your words painted a picture ... I was in the room with you, I felt your horror and pain. I was at the pub .... I saw the happiness and love.... I admire your tenacity in your fight to process your grief and is all so very hard. You are in my thoughts and prayers. xo

Boo said...

I hope that writing this was cathartic ... I'm so so sorry that you have had such heartbreak and loss and horrible issues to deal with this year. Be kind to yourself, one step at a time. This is YOUR loss, and there is only one way forward - that is, on your terms, in your time, and in your own way. Don't listen to what you "should or could be doing". People who haven't been through this don't know "jack" about it. Losing your father is a huge loss. Love and hugs, xxxx

Jenni said...

Mum, when something is a memory... And then all of a sudden those memories have tumbled into a thousand words to read... yeesh. That's so vivid and real. How can it be December now, 9 months have gone but it feels like yesterday? A moment ago.

It's filled me with sadness at the loss of Grandad, happiness at what a beautiful and loving family I was blessed enough to be born into, and inspiration to finish writing Dans diary - so that my hubby-to-be and his family can experience exactly what I just experienced! A tumble of words flowing with loads of emotion and love!


I miss him :(